VANDENBERG VILLAGE, Calif. -- A major renovation project is taking place at the Cabrillo High School Aquarium.
Workers are installing a new filtration system to replace an existing one that essentially was obsolete.
"The filtration is to allow us to have a much larger capacity, so at the point where we were at with old filtration, we couldn't add anything else," said senior Chase Fichtner. "If we wanted to all the new touch tank or if we wanted to add a random exhibit, we couldn't because they were at about over-capacity."
Fichtner, who is head curator, said the installation is first of two phases that will mark the most significant upgrade to the nearly 20-year-old student-run facility.
"This is the largest undertaking the aquarium has ever done," said Fichtner. "This is Phase 1 of two phase project, so Phase 2 is the Touch Tanks. The touch tanks right now are about 20 years old and for an aquarium exhibit, that's pretty old and when you have 7,000 visitors, it breaks down over time."
The cost of the entire two phase project is $250,000.
Once the filtration system is in place, work can begin on the other side of the building to install the new Touch Tank exhibit.
"It's going to be way bigger, way more accessible for people of all ages," Fichtner. "Our current tanks are kind of too tall for our litterer visitors, so we're upgrading it to be able to allow younger visitors and those in wheelchairs to be able to accessible it, so that's going to be really cool."
Fichtner noted the new filtration system could be up and running by Friday.
Once it is working, it will a huge step forward in the future aquarium operations.
"These new tanks have a much larger capacity and a much more efficient capacity too, so they use about 20 percent of the electricity of our old filtration and a lot less water because they keep our water cleaner for longer, so we are able to do less water changes, so overall, it helps us reduce costs and it allows us to expand even after this project," said Fichtner.
Construction on the new Touch Tank exhibit is scheduled to begin in late February. Completion is expected by mid-March.
Students have led the fundraising campaign over the past year, which has included donations from businesses and individuals, as well as grants.
The effort was boosted by a $100,000 from the Coastal Enhancement Resource Fund.
Fichtner said about $20,000 is still needs to be raised.
A fundraiser is set for Friday, Dec. 6 at the Panda Express in Lompoc.
The restaurant will make a donation towards the project when a customer makes a purchase and mentions the aquarium.
Donations can also be given though the Cabrillo High School Aquarium website.